Why do I want this and what do I want from it? Those are two questions you’re supposed to ask and answer for yourself with everything on your 101 list for the 1001 Day Project.
What’s in it for me with #93? It’s simple. My parents are aging and when they die, I’d like to think that we had the best relationship possible. I don’t think we talk enough and I worry about my mom now that she’s a widow. My family isn’t particularly close-knit, which is a blessing (no one’s stifling me) and a curse (I yearn for a feeling of belonging). I decided that I needed to follow Ghandi’s words and “be the change I want to see in the world.”
I started this today and I feel pretty dismal about the task. It’s not that I don’t love my parents, I do. I love them very much and I know I’ll be crushed when they die. I’ve already grieved my stepfather’s death and continue to mourn him even though he passed over four years ago.
But crikey. It’s hard to keep the big picture in mind when I call my mom and all she wants to talk about is whether or not to buy a new sofa. This would be fine… but I should point out that we spent the long weekend (read: three whole days) discussing the topic of whether or not she should buy a new sofa. And that’s ALL we discussed for seventy-eight hours, with a couple asides about her recent trip to England and family reunion in Denmark. I dunno, I feel like I’m at the end of my rope when it comes to offering fresh opinions on the one sofa my mother is mulling over, but I continue to surprise myself.
If anything, I am learning patience.
But I still struggle with my father. Maybe it’s because I’m not entirely happy with his girlfriend (the best thing I can say about her is that she’s devoted to my father… although I do wonder if it’s because he pays for everything because she spends the majority of her time complaining about how he doesn’t do anything right). Or it could be that I have some subconscious ax to grind because he and my mom divorced when I was three… Or maybe, just maybe it’s because I am so frustrated by his level of conversation.
It’s weird. I get on the phone with him, he starts talking and all I hear is the Peanuts’ adult voice going “Wah wah wah wah” in my head. It’s that or bland white noise. His idea of making conversation is asking me how I get to work, am I driving or taking public transit. What??!
I had to cut our “conversation” short. It was just too painful. I was in tears and upset. How could I tell my father it’s because he’s more boring than watching paint dry?
Now, I’m not totally unsympathetic. I realize it takes two to make a conversation and I was falling short in bringing more lively topics to the table. The old man can be interesting when he starts to talk politics. I just resent that I have to be the one to get the ball rolling. He never instigates conversation or activity. There was a time when he did that, like when I was a kid. But nowadays… Nope, not even so much of a “hey, let’s see a ball game.” I know, I know. You’re thinking, “So, why don’t you?” Yep, already have. And I’m tired of being the one to do that.
Frankly, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for calling him anyway. I mustn’t have been because of the tears and my reaction to his inquiry about what my days are like. “I go to work, I work, I come home, I quilt or work out, I go to bed. That’s my life. It hasn’t changed since I was seventeen.” Except that I quilt, which my father doesn’t understand because he thinks I should only work. He doesn’t understand that I’m feeling burnt out from working 24/7 for the last year. (And I should point out, my life is better than I’m making it sound, I’m still in that mood as I write this).
Anyway, I started tearing up because I realized how pathetic I sounded and how empty my life is, how alone I feel at the moment and how angry I feel at my father for his lack of attention. I don’t need attention, but it would be nice if he actually listened to me, to what I’m saying and I know that he’s not because when I tell him I’m frustrated about something he takes a moment to respond and then says, “Well, I’m glad everything is good.”
I suppose I should be glad. If I tell my mom I’m frustrated with my life, she starts to cry and blames it all on herself and how she’s a bad mother. I tell ya, the stereotypical Jewish mom could learn something from Mother Devine.
So, this is the baseline of where I’m at at the start of #93. Hopefully in twelve weeks, I can report a positive change and happy results from cultivating a good habit. And if you don’t hear from me it might be because there’s a bullet in my brain.
I kid. Sorta.
One good thing to come out of this morning is that I realize what a valuable quality and gift it is when you really pay attention to someone. I mean really pay attention to what they’re saying and not saying.
Note to self: apply these skills!